Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On the Subway

I was on the E train heading into the city about a week or so ago. A man came into the car holding an empty paper cup. Old black guy, bushy gray afro, beard, overcoat and only 2 teeth on the bottom row.
He started calling out, wailing "a quarter, can someone please give me a quarter...just one quarter" Sad, very plaintive and no one was paying attention. There were a few people with babies and kids in strollers. He started talking to them. This made some folks uncomfortable and others just ignored it. In between he kept asking for a quarter. I was seated next to the door but it was kind of blocked. I looked in my bag and dug out a few quarters..
As he got closer I held them out and tossed them in his cup so they would jangle.

"Thank you" he said.
"God bless you.
"God bless your family"

He started to take a step forward, then took a deliberate step back.
He looked me in the eye.
"And...Happy Birthday!"

He delighted in the expression of pleasant surprise on my face in reaction. When it came down to it, he really just wanted to be acknowledged, some human interaction.
We connected (and I thanked him)

And there was now this twinkle in his eye as he said that, which replaced the look and sound of desperation from just a moment or two ago.

It was a beautiful moment.